Warriors Women were denied a memorable victory in the closing stages of their opening Allianz Premier 15s clash at reigning champions Saracens as Jo Yapp’s side left north London with a losing bonus point.
Tries from Lotte Clapp and Georgie Lingham in the final ten minutes secured a 34-25 victory for Saracens, but Warriors can take an abundance of positives into next weekend’s trip to DMP Durham Sharks.
Well-organised, resilient and posing an attacking threat throughout, Warriors were in fine fettle with England capped back-row Alex Matthews looking particularly impressive.
Robyn Wilkins gave Warriors the lead with a penalty on five minutes, the visitors getting the better of Sarries at the breakdown which was a common theme for large periods of the first half. Sarries responded in typical fashion on nine minutes as they manufactured a dominant driving lineout to cross the whitewash in the near corner courtesy of Poppy Cleall.
Not deterred by the early set-back, Warriors took the lead on 18 minutes courtesy of Carys Cox who raced under the posts following some sublime attack play from Matthews. The athletic ball-carrier beat a flurry of defenders before offloading to the supporting Cox on the charge to the delight of the Warriors bench.
Saracens regained the lead immediately from the restart through May Campbell on the back of some excellent build up play in the forwards to get themselves deep inside Warriors’ 22. However, Warriors kept their composure and doubled their tally of tries for the afternoon just after the half hour mark when Taz Bricknell burst down the far side with a neat turn of pace with her inch-perfect pass finding Zoe Heeley who did the rest.
Warriors looked good value for their lead with half-time approaching, but Sarries had other ideas and lovely hands in their backline unleashed Rocky Clark to the line to give the hosts a narrow 17-15 lead at the interval.
Heather Fisher came on for Warriors at the break, her experience making the difference both on and off the pitch during the procedngs. Eight minutes into the second half Warriors went ahead thanks to Vicky Laflin’s breakaway try, the wing intercepting from midway inside her own half before sprinting clear to touchdown and put Warriors 20-15 in front. It was class from Laflin, who like Heeley, looked dangerous given sight of the try line.
The nip and tuck game was further underlined by Sarries again going up the other end to cross the line courtesy of Lingham, who snapped up the first of her two scores on the wing. Zoe Harrison’s superb touchline conversion extended Sarries’ advantage to 24-20.
Wales international Carys Phillips secured the try bonus point for Warriors on 54 minutes, the experienced campaigner bundling over the line from a very effective driving lineout. 25-24 ahead, Warriors stood firm to heavy Saracens pressure, but were unable to foil Clapp from going over after the home side were held up over the line in the previous phase of play. Lingham then bagged her brace for the day, crossing in the near corner despite the best efforts of a scrambling Warriors defensive line.
Warriors pushed for the next score by keeping ball in hand and looked to move the ball around at pace as they eyed a further bonus point. However, Sarries held on and Harrison was happy to boot the last kick of the game into touch to end the game 34-25.
5m | Wilkins pen 0-3
9m | Cleall try 5-3
18m | Cox try 5-10
19m | Campbell try 12-10
31m | Heeley try 12-15
34m | Clark 17-15
43m | Laflin try 17-20
45m | Lingham try 22-20
45m | Harrison con 24-20
52m | Phillips try 24-25
64m | Clapp try 29-25
68m | Lingham try 34-25
Warriors Women | 15 Abi Kershaw, 14 Zoe Heeley, 13 Carys Cox, 12 Robyn Wilkins, 11 Vicky Laflin, 10 Sarah Nicholas, 9 Caity Mattinson, 1 Carmen Tremelling, 2 Carys Phillips, 3 Laura Keates, 4 Amelia Buckland Hurry, 5 Lyndsay O’Donnell (c), 6 Alex Matthews, 7 Alex Callender, 8 Sioned Harries
Replacements | 16 El Febrey, 17 Taz Bricknell, 18 Roz Jermine, 19 Elizabeth Shermer, 20 Cara Brincat, 21 Sara Moreira, 22 Izzy Carroll, 23 Heather Fisher